Grant Flynn from Social Fit Edinburgh talks about his initiative and mental health!

Grant Flynn is one of the organizers of Social Fit Edinburgh, an initiative that had changed my life in so many ways that I thought it is worth sharing! I am really pleased to share a small interview I had with him a couple of days ago.

Hayley, Grant and their dogs in Hadrian´s Wall

Grant was born and raised in Edinburgh and works as a fitness instructor at the Pleasance Sports Centre and other gyms in the city. He lives in Portobello with his fiancé Hayley Doyle, who is a swim instructor originally from Newcastle. Among many different skills, she is a passionate cook and had prepared some pretty amazing vegetarian dishes for me! Living so close to the cold beach of Portobello, you can always feel a refreshing breeze when you visit their cozy home. They have three adorkable dogs: Tinkx, an oldie Labrador; Lucky, a Romanian street dog, and Lola, an odd-looking but beautiful dog.

Explain us a little bit about your initiative, Social Fit Edinburgh. What kind of events do you organize, and who is your target?

We run all types of free fitness events that can give people a sense of fulfillment. So, whether is a long bike session from Edinburgh to Falkirk, or whether it is a walk from Edinburgh Castle to Portobello, or it is a dance class, or a map reading course… we also do some “Meet and eat” so we get to know more about other countries cuisine.

The way we work is the slowest person leads because it might be that they are just starting their journey and we are there to support him of her. So, even though some of us might have better fitness condition, we do not allow our egos to take over.

We are no looking for any particular kind of individual, the only things that are required are respect, respect, respect. That is all. We support all communities, we are an eclectic group of people; from ex-military to young students. Our group is a mixture where everyone can feel welcome. So the chemistry of Social Fit includes disabled people, people from different cultural backgrounds, people with varying gaps of age, sexual orientations, etc.

What impact is Social Fit having in the community?

I think that people are in disbelief most of the time. So when they first learn that all our activities are free, they

Grant leading a hiking event in The Cobbler

are just waiting for the catch or the hidden agenda. So, besides the fact that our events allow people to get physically active, it also gives them trust. We are committed to activities that are 100% honest, and we are building some strong relations with all the people that attend our events.

Most of what we do right now is by word of mouth, so, although we are present in social media, I would say that at least 70% of the people that join our events get to us through friends and colleagues. Which is really original, especially to people from younger generations that are always surrounded by social media. When you have actual communication, face to face, something as simple as that can change you and make you feel part of something. You can feel safe.

One of our slogans is “back to basics with a bit of banter,” so is about having genuine fun through people sharing about their lives in a friendly and not too serious environment.

What would you recommend to someone who wants to start exercising and joining group events like yours?

Well, first of all, it is essential to recognize that it takes a lot of courage to decide to join a group event. It is not easy for everyone and to make that choice for your well being it is a really remarkable thing to do. So, even before starting any kind of fitness activity, you already had the confidence to look for it and get there. That is usually the most complex part of all.

Then, walking is one of the best ways to start. And also because you can talk to other people while walking, so you get the best of the two worlds: the fitness activity and also the opportunity to share a little bit about yourself and decompress.

Moreover, just looking for a sport you really like. You do not have to play it professionally to enjoy it. It is a matter of having fun and feeling good about after doing it. Once you have found something you really enjoy, you need to start being consistent about it. Consistency is related to structure and organization habits. After that, it will become a lifestyle.

Why should students engage in exercising more?

Well, physical activity increases your serotonin levels, and this hormone works in your brain by making you feel well and happy. So in this sense physical activity is a powerful tool to decompress yourself from all the study related stress of every day. It is perfectly understandable that students are focused on their studies because that is their priority, but at the same time, this can easily lead to a breakdown. It is not healthy.

As a fitness instructor, what would be your advice for students?

The development of a consistent routine. Having a consistent sleeping, eating, and exercising routine. So, while having on mind that your studies are your priority, you should commit to practicing at least 30 minutes of actual aerobic activity. If you have a clear –although flexible- routine, you will be able to fit those 30 minutes in your schedule.

To me, the most important thing is to realize that your emotional and mental health and resilience are what takes you out of bed every day and so you have to take care of it diligently. If you do not practice a good routine, it will directly affect how you feel.

So, for example, I wake up at 5 am every day. I can do everything I want to get done before leaving for work. That allows me to relax and keeps things organized. I like to plan ahead, everything is scheduled, so I do not have to worry about what I am doing next. You do not need to get obsessed about planning everything, you just need to become more organized. Develop a clear strategy for your day and your week. Something you can rely on, and from then find the possibility of flexibility. Then you have balance!

Visit Social Fit Edinburgh Fan page on Facebook if you want to know more about their events!